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Virology. 1999 Nov 10;264(1):66-75.

Loss of dimerisation of the nonstructural protein NS1 of Kunjin virus delays viral replication and reduces virulence in mice, but still allows secretion of NS1.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, 4072, Australia.


The flavivirus nonstructural protein NS1 has been implicated in viral RNA replication, although its precise role has not been identified. In its native state NS1 exists as a heat labile homodimer that is thought to be required for NS1 function and secretion. However, we have recently identified a cDNA clone of KUN virus (FLSD) that replicates efficiently in cell culture but produces and secretes NS1 in monomeric form. Sequence analysis of the NS1 gene in FLSD revealed a single amino acid substitution (proline(250) to leucine) when compared with the parental KUN virus. When site-directed mutagenesis was used to substitute leucine(250) with proline in FLSD to produce the clone 250pro, dimerisation was fully restored. Furthermore, time course experiments revealed that 250pro replicated in Vero cells significantly faster than FLSD and produced 100-fold more infectious virus early (12-24 h) in infection. This correlated with our observations that FLSD required approximately 10-fold more infectious virus than 250pro to produce disease in weanling mice after intraperitoneal inoculation. Taken together our results indicate that mutation from proline to leucine at residue 250 in KUN NS1 ablates dimer formation, slows virus replication, and reduces virulence in mice.

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